A few people have messaged me since I posted a couple weeks ago that we’d made the decision not to extend our time in South Korea asking why, what led to the decision, and/or did we just not like South Korea? Truth be told, when we arrived back in Korea last week, we actually had a ton of mixed feelings about that decision because we love South Korea so much! This country is such a maze of complexities. It’s very different from the Western culture we know and love, but I wanted to share 10 things we love about South Korea so you can see just *why* this has been such a hard decision for us.
10 Things We Love About South Korea
1 // The people
This 100% tops the list because we have had hands down the best experience with the incredible people of South Korea. From the strangers who love on our children and make them feel special and cared for to the random people who’ve helped us during our time here, South Koreans are wonderful people. We’ve experienced the best of it and, barring a few minor encounters which could happen anywhere, the people actually make the South Korean experience all the more special.
2 // The Food
Y’all. The food here is bar none. And you know what? It’s honestly more healthy here! Fast food culture really isn’t a thing here, and our kids’ digestive health is better than ever here (I’m sure you wanted to know that). It’s more than just kimchi and bap though. There’s love in the food here; I swear it.
3 // Korea is So Extra
I kid you not. South Korea levels everything up. Want a cafe? Korea gives you cafes with petting zoos, or Lego construction, or incredibly instagram-worthy photo ops. It’s wild. Want to visit a park? How about a park with life-sized building blocks – because you can find that at Taehaksan! Honestly, everything here is just kicked up a notch.
4 // Everything is Orderly
You know how people in America are also whining about lines, and prices, and waiting…and pretty much everything else? Everywhere we’ve gone in South Korea, people abide by the rules. They wait their turn. They’re polite and orderly. Our experience living here has showed us just how entitled many Americans (ourselves included) act on a daily basis.
5 // Medical & Healthcare is Done Right
One of our biggest challenges at Camp Humphreys has been access to timely healthcare. I won’t go into all of it, but getting close-in appointments is nearly impossible, and we don’t have an urgent care, so everyone is forced to use the ER. I’ve waited 4 months for the boys’ school/sports physicals, and I finally gave up and went to a Korean clinic in the Ville. We were in and out in 25 minutes with documents signed and stamped, and we only paid W50,000 total. I needed new glasses so I have an alternative to contacts. I visited a local Korean shop, walked in, sat down, had an exam, and walked out 35 minutes later with new glasses for only W65,000. It’s just done right.
6 // Pride in Outdoor Spaces
Okay, hear me out here because there are exceptions to this. Many of the rural areas of South Korea aren’t exactly clean in all areas, but when there’s a public park, or garden, or outdoor space designed for visitors, it’s immaculate. And, not only is it immaculate, but people pride themselves in keeping it so. (Case and point: Farm Kamille, Pohang Space Walk, Daejeon Expo Bridge)
7 // The Recycling & Trash Systems
Learning the South Korean way of disposing trash has been a trip, but when we went back to the US this past month, I was so much more aware of how wasteful we are. Everything is separated here. Food waste is composted. There are designated bags and bins for every type of waste and, barring the US-populated spaces, Koreans tend to keep it clean.
8 // Fall is Glorious
It’s no secret that I love fall. It’s the best season here in Korea, bar none. Spring is warm and wet and full of allergies. Winter is cold and blustery. Summer is hot and humid. But fall? Fall is glorious. Cool mornings give way to temperate days, which lead to chilly, cozy nights. Plus, the fall colors are just spectacular.
9 // History & Modernity Meet
This country is the perfect mix of old and new. In any given city, you can see old buildings and temples alongside skyscrapers and brand-new apartment buildings. It’s almost like history is merging with the modern world, and it’s beautiful to see how so many South Koreans embrace and cherish this cultural heritage.
10 // Driving Might Be Chaos, But Public Transit is Legit
Living in Pyeongtaek, we rely on two cars daily, but to get to and from Seoul, public transportation is the way to go. It’s affordable, it’s timely, it’s efficient, and it bypasses that absolutely horrifying traffic that we’ve sat in a few times on the way to various modeling jobs and hiking spots.
So, there you have it. While we may have made the choice not to stay in Korea longer than our original orders, we love this country, and we are so incredibly grateful for the experience. Our children are thriving. Mieke’s preschool is the best decision we’ve ever made. The boys love Koreans and feel at home here. We are grateful for this uninterrupted family time up to this point thus far. Though our time here hasn’t been without its challenges, Korea is one of those choices we’ll never regret, and there are far more than 10 things we love about South Korea.
Tell me – do any of these things surprise you?